Most people look at swimming as something that you only do in the pool. If you want to become a stronger swimmer, improve your speed and get faster at the turns, a strength-training program is a necessity.
What to do for strength training? A full body program is the best. You want to increase your strength without increasing muscle size significantly, as swimming has a large flexibility component involved.

The last thing you want is to increase the size of the muscle so that it limits the range of motion of the shoulder. Upper body strength is important in the pull of all strokes, though not as essential in the breaststroke where kick is the major power. Leg strength is important in turns and starts, so you want to include the large muscle groups of the legs as well.

Your exercise program should include exercises that work the bum (gluts), the quadriceps, the hamstrings, calves, abductors and adductors, shoulders, triceps, deltoids, biceps, triceps, lats traps and abs. Back exercises that are safe as well as strengthening can also be added in. Back exercises are good ones to ask a fitness staff member for help on. You want to do them properly to protect your back and strengthen it.

It doesn’t matter if you chose free weights or machines for your strength training. In fact, using bands or tubing is often the preferred method for many swimmers as you can mimic the stroke on land, therefore training the muscles and gaining some specificity in training those muscles. Always remember to do abdominal work. Much of swimming focuses on the abs, so strong ones are a must.

Remember to warm up before starting any strength training session. Five to 10 minutes of light to moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise is a fantastic way to begin. You should do 10 to 15 repetitions on each machine, and if you have time don’t be afraid to do another set. Remember when lifting to lift to fatigue — you should be able to feel that muscle tire during your last few reps. If you don’t get tired, you need either to add some more reps or more weight. When using the machines make sure that you use your full range of motion on each exercise — this also will help to enhance your flexibility. If you have never lifted weights before make sure that you get help. If you are just starting an exercise program talk to your physician before beginning. The fitness center’s fitness staff should be able to help you out. Remember form is of the utmost importance when lifting weights.

If you are looking to use free weights make sure that you include the following exercises (or exercises that use the same muscle groups). Lower body: squats or lunges, calves, some abductor/adductor exercise — either on the machine or using a cable crossover.

Upper body: lateral raises, overhead press, bench press, flies, bicep curls, tricep extensions (any of many ways), upright rows, bent-over rows, lat pull-downs, shrugs. Always remember to do abdominal exercise — some good ones are reverse curls, crunches and oblique exercises. Again, get help with these exercises if you need them. Again, do 10 to 15 reps and one to two sets.